Sports Idioms

If you’re an avid EF English Live blog reader then you’re well aware of how quirky English idioms can be. You already know that you have to ‘think outside of the box’ when it comes to idiomatic English. Well, these sports related idioms are really no exception.

Here are a few phrases used in everyday English that originally come from sports terms:

Call the shots – From snooker / billiards

Meaning: to be in charge
“I’m stepping and calling the shots from now on. Everyone get back to work immediately.”

Drop the ball – From any sports involving a ball

Meaning: to miss an opportunity
“I can’t believe I dropped the ball. I completely forget about Jessica’s birthday.”

Down to the wire – From horse racing

Meaning: to the very last minute or end
“I know it’s down to the wire and we only have one day to make this happen, but don’t give up now!”

Hit your target – From archery

Meaning: achieve what’s expected of you
“If we work hard, we can still hit our target and sell more than last month.”

Hit below the belt— From boxing

Meaning: to act unfairly and disregard rules
“I can’t believe he went ahead and pitched the idea without us. That was a real hit below the belt.”

Take sides—From any team sports

Meaning: to join a side or group when in an argument against the other group
“You and Tom really need to sort out your issues. I don’t want to take sides with either of you any more.”

Get the ball rolling – From most ball games

Meaning: to get something started
“Let’s get the ball rolling on moving this furniture. I’ll grab the chairs.”

Make the cut –From most team sports

Meaning: to be selected
“Congratulations on making the cut everyone. You three have been hired out of 40 applicants.”

The ball is in your court – From tennis

Meaning: it’s your decision or responsibility to do something now
“You can either sulk all day or go up and apologise to her. The ball is in your court.”

Blind sided—From any sport

Meaning: to not see something coming
“I was completely blind-sided. I never thought she would do that.”

Can you think of any other sports-relate idioms? Write them in the comments below.

Article related: 15 common English idioms and phrases with their meaning.